The average person speaks over 15,000 words a day… But, how many of those words are mindful, intentional, and meaningful words? Vs. just words spoken for the sake of speaking….
As a talkative Extrovert Gemini I know I can be guilty of this!
Here are a few ways you can start to develop your mindful communication skills.
1) Utilize W.A.I.T. This is one of my all-time favorite acronyms. It stands for Why Am I Talking. It may sound silly but try it! The next time you are about to speak, pause and ask yourself Why I Am Talking? This will help you make your words intentional and mindful.
2) Develop Mindful Listening: As renowned leader Stephen Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply”. Developing mindful listening is huge.
A great exercise to practice mindful listening is to find a partner and take turns talking for a minute each (you can do this for up to 5 minutes if you really want to go for it). While one person talks, the other must simply listen and cannot interject at all. Once the speaker is finished talking, the listener can share what they heard to check for proper listening.
3) Mitigating Defensive Reactions: Piggy backing off mindful listening, it is important to mention a key barrier to mindful listening… Defensive reactions! Especially when faced with feedback or constructive criticism, it is so easy to react defensively as an automatic reaction usually coming from our fight or flight amygdala that is feeling triggered and threatened (Am I not good enough? Do they not like me?). Practice mindfully acknowledging triggers as they arise, taking a breath and choosing how you respond vs. reacting automatically. All too often, we react with a defense without even fully listening to the feedback the other person is providing.
4) Mind your self-talk: Talking of course is not just external and what we say to others but is also the internal dialogue we have in our own minds. If we speak an average of 15,000 words a day, imagine how many words we think! If your internal self-talk is negative, that will filter into your external talk. Practice simply noticing when a negative or critical thought enters your mind and then gently and compassionately bringing yourself back to the present moment – that is mindfulness.
Remember to be patient with yourself. It is not about getting rid of those negative or critical thoughts but rather not dwelling on them unduly so that you do not go into a negative spiral. Imagine noticing your thoughts of all types floating by like clouds; if you have a negative or anxious thought notice it and let it float by and then reorient yourself to the present. Try some of these mindful communication strategies and exercises in your daily life at home with your family and friends and watch the transformations begin. It can help to use anchors to bring your back to the present such as feeling the soles of your feet on the ground.
Try some of these mindful communication strategies and exercises in your daily life at home with your family and friends and watch the transformations begin. Just remember to be kind to yourself as you practice – building mindful communication skills is a journey that takes time and practice so be patient and have fun while you’re at it!
“When you talk you are only repeating what you know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” -Dalai Lama